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Asia wrestles with new, more infectious strain of COVID common in U.S., U.K.

As South Asia wrestles with a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, experts are investigating if the strain of the virus is more infectious than previous viruses in Asia.

Investigators have identified the new Asian strain as the same strain that is in Europe and the U.S., making it possible that previous successes by Asian countries in keeping the virus at bay had more to do with the strain of the virus than any mitigation efforts.

“The strain has been found in many other countries and has become the predominant variant in Europe and the U.S., with the World Health Organization saying there’s no evidence the strain leads to a more severe disease,” says Fortune.

But it could be more hardy say experts.

“It’s more commonly identified now than it was in the past, which suggests that it might have some kind of competitive advantage over other strains of Covid-19,” said Benjamin Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong, who said that so far there is no evidence of it being more infectious.

In June, however, the strain of the virus, called D614G, most common in Europe and the U.S was found by the Scripps Institute to “have a mutated S ‘spike’ protein that makes it about 10 times more infectious than the strain that originally was identified in Asia,” according to Biospace.  

The D614G strain was believed to have originated in the U.K. and spread to America from Europe.

COVID infections have recently spiked around the world, including unexplained outbreaks in South Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

In Vietnam, the D614G strain was recently found to be responsible for an outbreak in the coastal city of Da Nang that has the country on lockdown again. 

“Nguyen Van Kinh, who chairs the Vietnamese Society of Infectious Diseases, said the new strain of virus found in patients in Danang belonged to a mutation known as D614G, which has been linked to infections in Africa and Bangladesh,” reported the Nikkei Asian Review two weeks ago.

Similarly, New Zealand has tracked their cases back to the strain found in the U.S.

This week, New Zealand decided to postpone elections for four weeks as the island country of 4.9 million people has experienced 66 cases over the last two weeks. Overall, New Zealand has had 1,631 cases with 22 deaths, one of the more successful countries at combating the virus.

New Zealand also highlights how unrealistic it might be to completely eliminate the virus.

“There was a general feeling that we had beaten the virus — although government officials and public-health experts were warning against complacency,” after 100 days with no COVID cases, said New Zealand epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig.

“Now, there’s widespread anxiety, with long lines of people at COVID-19 testing stations and some people panic-buying in supermarkets.”

Because, once again, the country will be on lockdown. Until it isn’t.

Just like every other country.

PHOTO: EPA/Justin Lane

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